Creative Destruction Lab partners with Facebook on new cryptocurrency

Rotman incubator is sole academic partner in controversial Libra venture

Creative Destruction Lab partners with Facebook on new cryptocurrency

In June, the Rotman School of Management’s seed-stage incubator announced a partnership with Facebook’s new venture into cryptocurrency: Libra. As the company’s only academic founding partner, U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) will participate as part of the Libra Association in its efforts to create a cryptocurrency infrastructure.

While CDL touts the partnership as an exciting opportunity for innovation, recent criticisms leveraged against the tech giant have some wondering if Libra is contributing to Facebook’s woes.

Facebook’s crypto experiment

On June 18, amid a tense period for the company, Facebook released a statement announcing Calibra, a new subsidiary of Facebook that aims to connect people to financial services through the Libra network.

Calibra intends to create a digital wallet system where people can buy, spend, and save Libra cryptocurrency. Users will be able to use Libra’s wallet on Facebook-owned services like WhatsApp, Messenger, and as a standalone app.

The Libra network will use a blockchain system that will record every transaction that takes place. As a “permissioned” network, Libra’s blockchain can only function on specific servers. 

Libra’s network will be overseen by the Libra Association, which is composed of companies, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions. The association intends to manage the network, provide servers to run the network, and manage the cryptocurrency’s reserve. The association also removes Libra’s control from the hands of Facebook into those of industry, academia, and non-profit sectors.

When it was announced, the Libra Association had 27 members, including Spotify, Lyft, and Uber. Facebook hopes to have at least 100 partners in the association by Libra’s expected 2020 launch.

CDL joins The Libra Association

While the CDL was established at the University of Toronto in 2012, the lab now operates with locations across the country and in the United Kingdom. As a seed-stage program, CDL supports startups in the science and technology field.

CDL’s partnership with Libra is intended to build on the lab’s incubation role by providing additional opportunities for the startup community. According to Rotman School of Management Professor and CDL’s Chief Economist, Joshua Gans, the partnership intends to provide more opportunities for CDL startups in the blockchain stream. In the long-term, Gans said Libra presents an opportunity for the entire startup community. “In creating better startup ecosystems, we will be fulfilling our mission,” he said.

In an email to The Varsity, Gans discussed how the partnership will benefit the U of T community, saying, “for the university, it represents a bold and innovative move — with a set of challenges that is not normally in the university’s wheelhouse but is something that its leadership can build on and signal a vision that goes beyond the ordinary day-to-day of academic life.”

“I think it is particularly gratifying that the university, at its highest levels, has been able to back our role in Libra thus far and I hope that will continue as things evolve,” Gans added.

In an interview with The Varsity, Associate Professor of Finance at the Rotman School of Management and at UTM’s Department of Management, Andreas Park, said academic institutions should have a role to play in regulating Libra.

“I think it’s really important that an academic institution is part of [the governance process],” Park said, adding that academic partners could have a “positive influence” when outlining Libra’s objectives, goals, and governance structure.

Libra’s promise and pitfalls 

When announcing the project, Facebook evoked current concerns around financial systems as justification for the product. Specifically, the company noted that financial infrastructures are inaccessible in developing countries — especially for women.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reflected on this promise in leaked memos, saying he hopes that Libra will create a system of “digital money that can work globally” and can effectively “be implemented by big companies.”

For Park, a global cryptocurrency system has significant potential, especially for countries without a stable currency. An effective cryptocurrency system could have a sweeping positive impact by creating a financial structure that “transcends borders.”

“Most people in the world would benefit greatly if they had stable money,” Park said. “And if you think of Facebook as two billion users, most of them are not from the developed world. So, the developing world can benefit enormously [by] this initiative almost by accident.”

“I could not envision a world in which the public sector would actually be able to build this,” Park added.

However, while Facebook maintains that Libra will protect users’ private information – apart from sharing data to “keep people safe” and “comply with the law” – some researchers, lawmakers, and advocates have raised concerns with Facebook’s track record on privacy.

Amid these mounting concerns, Libra has come under sharp scrutiny. For some companies, the costs of participating in Libra outweighed the benefits. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that seven major partners had left the association: Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe, Mercado Pago, and Booking.

Megan Boler, Associate Chair of the Department of Social Justice Education in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, raised concerns about Facebook’s size and power in an email to The Varsity. “Nothing could be more disturbingly symbolic of Facebook’s meteoric rise to ruling the globe than Libra,” Boler said in an email to The Varsity. “Given Facebook’s track record with profit over public good, one must cultivate deep suspicion about this corporation’s ongoing amalgamation of economic, political, legal and increasingly moral power.”

Park also discussed possible concerns with Facebook’s ownership of a global financial system. Unlike banks, which have limited personal data about customers, Facebook has a plethora of information on every user.

“If you have the complete picture, you’re extremely powerful,” Park explained.

Disclaimer: Kaitlyn Simpson previously served as Volume 138 Features Editor and Volume 139 Managing Online Editor of The Varsity, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Varsity Publications Inc.

Postsecondary TTC fares may be reduced in response to Ford government’s policies

Motion result of advocacy by the University of Toronto Students’ Union

Postsecondary TTC fares may be reduced in response to Ford government’s policies

Students may soon be seeing lower TTC fares as Toronto City Council passed a motion at the start of this month for the TTC’s governance board to explore options for further discounted fares for postsecondary students.

The Toronto City Council consideration stemmed from the Ontario government’s decisions to implement the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), which enables university students to opt out of non-essential incidental fees, and to reduce postsecondary financial aid from the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

In a 22–1 vote, the council passed a consideration titled, “Exploring Options for Affordable Toronto Transit Commission Fares for Post-Secondary Students.” The motion was introduced by Councillor Mike Layton and was seconded by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. It passed without amendments.

Motion motivated to address affordability crisis

By passing the proposal, City Council has requested the TTC Commission Board — the City of Toronto agency that oversees the TTC’s policy matters — to review options for lower fares for postsecondary students.

Potential options include a lower single fare and a further discounted monthly transit pass for postsecondary students. The council has also further requested the board to take the Ontario government’s changes to the universities’ fee systems into account, and to “report back in the 2020 Budget process.”

“The costs of commuting [are] one of the most pressing affordability issues facing those attending post-secondary institutions,” wrote Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão in an email to The Varsity. Bailão voted to pass the motion.

“I supported this motion at Toronto City Council because I believe we need to review options about how we can assist students in our City.”

Motion opposed by Councillor Stephen Holyday

Councillor Stephen Holyday was the sole council member who opposed the motion. In an interview with The Varsity, he explained his belief that the motion may ultimately result in increased costs for non-postsecondary students.

To fund further discounts for postsecondary students, Holyday said that fares for other groups, such as adults, may increase. He also contended that it could result in a heavier burden on taxpayers.

Holyday sees the motion as a “swipe at the provincial government’s policies,” as he is unsupportive of disunity between the council and other orders of government.

Layton disputed the justification for Holyday’s position. He said that while it is possible that fares for non-postsecondary students may increase, it was not a certainty. He also maintained that the TTC has other sources of revenue to fund the discount.

Layton further noted that there are different ways for the board to balance the TTC’s budget. He said that it would be atypical for the board to fund the discount by adjusting fare prices for other users. Instead, it may be funded by the tax revenue provided by the city to the TTC.

He further emphasized that the motion is a continuation of a standing position of the City Council.

“We had a program to provide subsidies to postsecondary students, and then the provincial government changed their fare system for postsecondary students,” Layton said. “Now we have to adjust our program in order to meet the reality of this new opt-out policy.”

Origins from U of T student advocacy

The consideration was prompted by an open letter sent to the council by multiple Ontario student unions, including the University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU), the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union.

Lucas Granger, UTSU Vice-President, External Affairs, explained to The Varsity that the efforts originated with the failure of the UTSU to fund U-Pass in the 2018 referendum, which Granger said would have lowered fees for commuters. Due to the SCI, the Ontario government has mandated that “only those transit pass programs with fully executed agreements” prior to January 17 can be considered compulsory.

In September, Granger spoke at a community liaison meeting between student unions and city representatives. He later explained the circumstances in a meeting with Layton, who introduced a relevant motion to the council. Granger then drafted an open letter to the council in favour of the motion, ahead of its vote.

According to him, he also emailed student unions across Toronto to support the letter.

As the TTC’s governance board explores options, Granger plans to continue to advocate for and pursue lower transit fares for postsecondary students.

Where do Canada’s federal parties stand on research funding?

Research funding has been on an upward trend, but problems remain

Where do Canada’s federal parties stand on research funding?

The hubbub of election season sees parties and candidates promoting and revamping policies and agendas, but there’s one policy discussion that has yet to materialize — government funding for fundamental science research.

The platforms of the Conservative Party, Liberal Party, and New Democratic Party (NDP) all have sparse information on science research, though the Green Party has provided a detailed strategy on funding.

Science research funding is lower than it was 10 years ago. The three main agencies that finance most of Canada’s federal research — the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) — have substantially decreased the amount of funding they’re willing to give, with the approval rate of grant applications by these agencies dropping to as low as 13 per cent.

Since winning the last federal election in 2015, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau appointed Dr. Kirsty Duncan as the chief scientific officer. Duncan commissioned an expert panel to carry out the fundamental science review, surveying the current landscape of science research in Canada.

In a 2015 mandate letter to the minister of science, Trudeau committed to the creation of more opportunities for students in STEM and business programs, enhanced research funding across the board, and strengthened recognition of the importance of fundamental research in discovery. According to the federal government, these mandates have been fulfilled.

However, the Canadian Association of University Teachers has contended that federal research funding has not been optimally allocated. The Liberals allotted $900 million to science research from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, but the association maintains that it did not make a substantial impact on the larger science community. It wrote that the amount was only shared between 13 postsecondary institutes and their researchers.

Voters might expect a more coherent plan for research funding developed by each of the main parties. In the absence of a clear commitment to science research funding from the Liberals, the NDP, and the Conservatives, The Varsity reached out to party representatives.

Different parties’ pledges to research funding

According to a spokesperson from the Liberal Party, the party plans on providing $354.7 million over five years, and $90.1 million per year ongoing, to the CIHR. It also plans to invest $265 million in the SSHRC.

A spokesperson for the NDP wrote that they will work with universities and health professionals to make sure that public research on critical health issues continues to flourish, and will invest in public agriculture research.

A representative from the Green Party referred to its in-depth funding strategy, which mentions that it plans on incorporating conclusions of the Fundamental Science Review and increasing funding to postsecondary institutions and universities for science research.

The Conservatives did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

U of T professor highlights reticence on science funding

A major issue for voters is that none of the parties seem to want to talk about science research funding in-depth, according to an op-ed to the Toronto Star written by Dr. David Naylor, a former U of T President, and Dr. Mark Lautens, a professor at U of T’s Department of Chemistry.

Lautens underscored the importance of federal research investment in an interview with The Varsity. He noted that it enables scientists to improve the public’s quality of life by developing disease therapies, finding solutions to environmental issues, and bettering waste reduction. He noted that funding also provides research opportunities to better train the country’s future researchers.

Lautens has supported the rebound of federal funding since cuts in the mid-2000s, but he still believes that “a lot more needs to be done.” He highlighted the low rates of CIHR grant approval for medical research funding as a critical area of improvement.

What’s at stake for students?

Farah Qaiser, a Master’s student in molecular genetics at U of T and a head spokesperson for #VoteScience, a national nonpartisan effort to advocate for science in the upcoming election, explained how voters can learn more about the parties’ positions on supporting research.

In an email to The Varsity, Qaiser advocated for voters to reach out to their candidates as soon as possible to ask where they stand on science issues that matter to their electorate — such as funding research or better supporting the “next generation of scientists.”

She recommended voters to do so by reaching out to candidates in-person, calling, emailing, or using the #VoteScience campaign’s email form.

To learn more, Qaiser further recommended students check CBC’s non-partisan science and environmental policy debate between federal candidates, as well as the conclusions of a survey sent to the federal parties to determine their environmental policies.

The Evidence for Democracy advocacy group, along with members of the #VoteScience campaign, have also published results of a questionnaire sent to the federal parties about their positions on science policy.

The Liberals, NDP, and Greens submitted responses to the survey. According to Evidence for Democracy, the Conservatives “declined to participate due to time constraints.”

How to keep money in your pocket

Make your tuition work for you

How to keep money in your pocket

This article was written while listening to “Money” by Cardi B on repeat. I recommend playing it as you continue, to enhance your overall reading experience.


University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) coupons: If you’re looking for the hub of student savings, the UTSU website’s student discount page is it. Need a refresher from studying? Cineplex tickets go for $10.25, and a Night Out deal that includes two tickets, two drinks, and one popcorn goes for $32. Need an adrenaline rush to make you feel alive after chugging four Monster Energy Drink to write an essay that is due the next day? Canada’s Wonderland tickets here go for $45 including tax -— compared to the $53.99 plus tax online. Scream therapy included, free of charge.

Student Price Card (SPC): Now, this card requires a $10 fee for a year-long membership, but as any good business course will teach you, sometimes you’ve got to spend some to save more. You’ll get exclusive discounts at a wide variety of stores and restaurants, from Roots — 15 per cent off with a SPC card and student ID — to Pizza Hut —10 per cent off regular price. 


PRESTO transit discount: As a general rule of thumb, don’t pay more if you don’t have to. If you are aged 19 or under, go to a Shopper’s Drug Mart and change your TTC pass fare for cheaper with your ID. You’ll pay $2.15 instead of $3.10 per ride, which seems like a small difference, but trust me — it adds up. If you are aged over 19, consider purchasing a student monthly TTC pass, which goes for $112.25 — much cheaper than the regular selling point of $151.15. 

Greyhound: Planning a first-year reading week trip to Montréal so that verybody can drink without breaking a sweat over fake IDs? As a student, you get 10 per cent off tickets with a student ID and an enrolment form, class schedule, or any other documentation verifying enrolment. Time to break out your middle-school level French.


Future Bistro: Located 10 minutes away from campus, this place is a safe haven for broke university students. They usually have a discount for all-day breakfast meals, from Monday to Friday, if you have a Toronto student ID. So that means you can have breakfast for dinner, which is university living at its finest.

Metro on Bloor  Street West and Spadina Avenue: Need a place to pick up groceries? You get a student discount on your heart’s desire on Wednesdays and Thursdays with your student ID. 

Shoppers Drug Mart on Bloor Street and Bedford Road: Need a more conveniently located place to pick up groceries as a Vic or St. Mike’s student? There’s a 20 per cent discount on Thursdays for all students here as well.


U of T libraries free newspaper access: Log in on the U of T Libraries site and get free access to The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. These won’t be the most recently published articles, but you’ll still be able to access older articles for no charge. 

Free Toronto Star subscription: Stay updated on the upcoming federal election. Make sure you know all the breaking news, because why not, it’s free! The Toronto Star is giving postsecondary students a free subscription until October 31 so they can be informed voters. We love the healthy intersection between patriotism and the lack of paywalls. 

Entertainment and lifestyle

Criterion on Demand: Sure, you have illegal streaming websites for all the movies not on Netflix. But how exciting would it be to do something legally? Now, all U of T students can be the true law-abiding citizens that they’re destined to be with the extensive free film collection on Criterion on Demand. Log in with your U of T account, and you won’t even notice all the due dates looming closer and closer until it’s too late, like the rest of us.

Amazon student discount: Are you too tired to walk to the Shoppers a couple of streets down from you to buy that bottle of shampoo? Is it abnormally cold outside — which it will be, for many months? Amazon Prime it. If you sign up as a student, you get a free six months of Prime, which will score you access to Prime video, shipping, and more. When the six months are up, you get 50 per cent off Prime. 

Spotify Premium: The only thing worse than doing work in the library on a weekend is doing it to the sound of keyboards clacking and dull silence. Get a Spotify Premium for $4.99 per month instead as a student. Enough said.

Nights out

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) Tuesday nights: Do you want a date night that fulfills the two most important criteria for love: cultured and cheap? Go to the ROM on Tuesdays for free as a full-time university student. 

The Dance Cave: Blow off some steam on Friday nights to take full advantage of the 19-and-over drinking law in Ontario. This club has free cover for students with student ID, which I wager is a better bet for all you guys out there so you don’t have to pay that extra $10–20 fee at frats. Equality, people — it’s beautiful.

Shining light on the Sunshine List

Analyzing the gender wage gap among U of T’s top-paid professors

Shining light on the Sunshine List

U of T’s top earners are disproportionately male, The Varsity’s analysis of previous Sunshine Lists has revealed.

The annual Sunshine List, published by the Ontario government, reveals the salaries of all public employees who make over $100,000. There were 131,741 people on the 2017 list, over 3,800 of whom were University of Toronto employees.

The 2017 Sunshine List revealed a significant absence of women in top-paying positions, as well as a persistent pay disparity between the top earning male and female professors at U of T — even for professors with the same title, same years of employment, and the same starting salary.

The 2014–2015 gender equity report, the last-released study on gender equity at U of T, reported an increase in the representation of women in full-time tenure-track faculty positions from 30 per cent to 35 per cent. Women in the position of Professor made up only 27 per cent of all full-time Professors at U of T in the 2014–2015 academic employment year.

The top 100

Professors with the top 100 highest salaries on the Sunshine List are from a wide variety of departments and all three U of T campuses, yet the majority are men, with only 14 women making the cut.

Median pay for the top 100 female professors on the 2017 Sunshine List was $337,105.74, whereas the median pay for men in the top 100 was $346,854.07. This translates to female professors in the top 100 making 97 cents for each dollar that a male professor makes.

While this is still a smaller gap than the Canadian average, it alludes to other larger disparities that can be seen throughout the Sunshine List, ranging from the median starting salary differences to the median 2017 salary for men and women.

While the average male professor has been on the Sunshine List for two more years than the average female professor, the overrepresentation of men on the list combined with the median salary gap of $9,748.33 points to a historical absence of women in higher-paying positions. In this regard, the top 100 list reveals no new information, as women are frequently underrepresented and unequally-paid in high-paying jobs.

A closer look at professors of Philosophy, Religion, English, Rotman Organizational Behaviour, Law, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE), Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics reveals that, while the trend of pay disparity does not apply to every individual department, a pay gap occurs in all areas of U of T. These departments were chosen for analysis as they had the largest number of professors with the same job title on the 2017 Sunshine List.

Top 100 earning professors based on 2017 salaries. (Click to expand)

Humanities and Social Sciences (Philosophy, Religion, English, Rotman, Law)

All of the Humanities and Social Sciences departments investigated had pay gaps across the board.

Female professors on the Sunshine List were, on average, hired only two years later than their male counterparts, yet consistently received significantly smaller pay raises across their careers and were always outnumbered in their departments. While these female professors saw an average increase from their starting salary of $48,012.73, male professors averaged a $78,103.22 increase.

While Religion, English, Rotman, and Law all had higher starting median salaries for women when compared to men, with gaps of $1,719.00, $1,401.50, $53,682.00, and $11,916.00 respectively, male professors still had a higher median salary on the 2017 Sunshine List.

Philosophy professors on the Sunshine List — all of whom had the same job title — held the smallest margin of median salary disparity, with a pay gap of $5,490.73 in favour of men in 2017.

The largest average pay gap in 2017 among these departments belonged to Rotman Professors of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management, where women on the Sunshine List made, on average, 29 per cent less than men.

With the exception of Philosophy, these Humanities and Social Science departments all show the same characteristics: the average woman on the Sunshine List made less than their male counterpart in 2017 and departments with higher overall pay maintained increasingly wider divides in median and average pay.

Sciences (MIE, Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics)

While more egalitarian in pay when compared to the Humanities and Social Sciences, professors in MIE, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics — representing the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) — had pay disparities favouring men in every department but one.

The largest pay gap in the Sciences existed among MIE professors on the Sunshine List, where only two women held the same title as their 28 male counterparts. While the median starting salary for women was $4,121.50 higher than for men, the current pay gap is commensurate with the employment gap — women on the list made 19 per cent less than men in 2017. This means that, though women may start out with higher salaries, they do not see as much progress throughout their careers as men do.

In contrast, Computer Science salaries were, on average, equal for men and women. The median pay gap was $711.67 in favour of women, an anomaly on the Sunshine List.

All Science departments analyzed had at least double the number of men than women on the Sunshine List. MIE had the largest disparity, with 26 more men than women, while Computer Science had the smallest gap, at 10 more men than women.

Physics and Mathematics both maintained a pay disparity between average starting salaries and average 2017 salaries. On the 2017 Sunshine List, women in Physics were paid 87 cents per dollar made by their male counterpart, and women in Mathematics made 94 cents per dollar.

In addition to the gender pay gap, the Science departments reflect a STEM-wide problem: the underrepresentation of women. Between 1987 and 2015, the percentage of women working in STEM fields across Canada increased from 20 per cent to 22 per cent of the workforce. By contrast, female science professors at U of T who appeared on the Sunshine List made up only 16.5 per cent of the investigated Science departments on the list.

Gender pay gap for humanities, social sciences, and sciences in 2017. (Click to expand)

Analyzing direct discrimination

When comparing professors within the same department, with the same starting salary within a $500 margin, and the same number of years of employment, direct gender pay disparity becomes much more apparent.

Among nine pairings with these conditions, only two had women making more than their male counterpart; the largest pay gap in favour of women was $4,296.36.

The other seven cases demonstrated greater gender-based pay inequities, with the largest pay gap in favour of men at $78,033.09. In this case, the male professor who started with the same salary and worked for the same number of years as his female counterpart still made 48 per cent more.

Broadly, the average starting salary across all nine cases was $106,885.11 for women and $106,792.56 for men. Though women on the 2017 Sunshine List had a small starting salary gap of $92.55, in the end the average man still made $14,993.06 more than the average woman.

Across the nine cases mentioned above, women made on average 9.6 per cent less than men in 2017, despite having been on the Sunshine List for the same number of years, with the same starting salary, and with the same listed job title. These cases, however, do not take into account external factors that would affect salary, such as teaching additional courses and conducting research. It’s unknown how these 18 male and female professors compare on those counts, as either the male or female professor could have more experience.

Responses and reactions

In a statement to The Varsity, U of T Vice-Provost Faculty and Academic Life Heather Boon said that, “The matter of gender pay equity is an important issue at U of T. We, like many other large and complex institutions, are in the process of looking carefully at gender pay equity as it relates to our faculty.”

Boon explained that gender is more balanced for Associate and Assistant Professors, citing the 2014–2015 Gender Equity Report that states that Associate Professors and Assistant Professors have 42 per cent and 43 per cent female representation, respectively. Any analysis comparing the pay of the most senior rank of Professor will be affected by the prevalence of men in those more senior positions.

Boon’s statement corroborates the findings of The Varsity’s analysis: the top 100 earning professors at U of T are overwhelmingly male, and make more money in almost every case.

Boon listed initiatives the university is undertaking “to foster and support a diverse faculty complement,” including increased funding to support diverse faculty hiring, unconscious bias training, mentorship and leadership programs for new and diverse faculty, and an updated equity survey that would collect detailed data on U of T’s workforce.

“The University of Toronto is one of North America’s leading research intensive universities,” concluded Boon. “We are committed to excellence in education and research. That requires us to attract and retain the best educators and professional staff with competitive salaries and compensation.”

However, Professor Sarah Kaplan, Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy, Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy, and Professor of Strategic Management at Rotman, contends that little progress is being made to rectify the gender-based pay disparities and employment gaps at U of T, particularly for faculty on the Sunshine List.

Kaplan added that the Sunshine List “has many problems,” which makes analysis of it “a little bit apples to oranges.”

“For example, if a professor has a salary that is $100,000 but they teach two extra courses that year, they might get paid to just teach those courses in addition to that load, so their overall salary would look higher,” she said.

Despite the issues with the Sunshine List, it is the only publicly available data on U of T salaries. The university does not release any information on employee diversity, and the last report on gender equity was published based on data from four academic years ago. Although it isn’t perfect, the Sunshine List still demonstrates gender disparities at U of T’s highest levels.

“We’re not alone at U of T,” said Kaplan when discussing the pay gap in the wider Ontario and Canadian context. “But we’re a leading university in the country. We should not just be comforting ourselves by saying ‘we’re not alone.’ We should actually be at the cutting edge of trying [to] resolve this.”

Within Ontario, McMaster University, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Guelph have all enacted pay boosts to female faculty after task forces and studies revealed systemic gender-based inequities in salary. Kaplan believes that U of T should follow suit by collecting the appropriate data and equalizing pay. However, she has little faith that these changes will come swiftly. “In the university or government context, where change is going to be slow, it’s going to take some guts to do it and I don’t see anyone having the guts,” she said.

“[U of T] should recognize that there’s these gendered processes that produce these unequal outcomes,” said Kaplan. “They should be making up for those differences and be willing to take whatever political heat they would take for doing it.”


average vs. median: The average pay calculates the arithmetic mean, which tends to be higher than the median, the middle of a given set. Whereas the average would account for wide ranges in pay, the median more accurately represents the ‘typical’ man or woman when considering pay. However, the average, in many cases, is able to fully reflect pay gaps by accounting for the overall higher pay among one group over another.

starting vs. current (2017): Ontario first began publishing the Sunshine List in 1996. The starting salary of professors who were researched represent their salary when they first appeared on the annually published Sunshine List.

Will the next financial apocalypse be Canadian?

A lack of financial literacy among students leaves us vulnerable amid recent events

Will the next financial apocalypse be Canadian?

This February, the CEO of Home Capital Group stepped down amid allegations of broker fraud, which culminated in a violent stock price drop. Immediate comparisons were drawn between this case and the American housing market crash in 2008, and predictions of an impending Canadian economic collapse were strewn across major papers like Maclean’s, the Financial Post, and Forbes.

These predictions were problematic for two reasons. First, news sources that constantly flip between extreme fear-mongering and a disdainful casualness and overuse inaccessible financial terminology make it extremely difficult for students to understand our financial system.

Secondly, whether or not this is a financial crisis, students will be the first demographic that the Home Capital fiasco will affect, regardless of whether we are paying attention.

Home Capital is an alternative mortgage lender that is part of a larger group, Home Trust Company. Despite being the largest of its kind in Canada, the company is effectively a minnow in the Canadian financial pond when compared to traditional lenders. As an “alternative” lender, they lend money to clients who are often turned away from traditional banks due to uneven credit scores — including students.

Two years ago, Home Capital disclosed that 45 of its mortgage brokers had been falsifying borrower income and employment information. Then, in April 2017, the Ontario Securities Commission charged the company for failing to inform their investors about the implications of these actions. This caused investors to pull out from the company, and even after a $2 billion line of credit, the company is in danger of closing.

The subsequent panic of those who invested in the company was understandable: a similar series of events sunk the American economy in 2008. At the time, mortgage brokers were increasingly pushing mortgages to borrowers with shaky credit histories who would be unable to pay them back. Big banks would then package these shaky mortgages into allegedly low-risk, subprime securities and people would invest money in them, betting on the fact that they wouldn’t fail. The banks were able to disguise the fact that these mortgages were given to borrowers with falsified income statements and bad credit history, due to to ratings agencies giving ‘A’ ratings to bad mortgages. Eventually, people failed to pay their mortgages, and millions of Americans ended up homeless and losing millions. The entire economy collapsed.

At the same time, it can be argued that people are wrong in thinking that this is the start of that same pattern in Canada. Home Capital is a relatively small mortgage lender in a very niche part of the market. They only lend to individuals that had been rejected by the larger, heavily-regulated lenders, and they were held accountable for it, something that never happened in America circa 2008.

What this does prove is that there is a growing need for financial literacy, especially amongst students. It is easy to believe any version of the facts that are being thrown at you, especially ones that include phrases like ‘collateralized debt obligations’ and ‘low-risk, subprime securities’. Regrettably, this can lead to serious implications being lost in the financial terminology.

If Home Capital, the largest alternative lender is going to incur losses, it will be harder for other alternative lenders to access funds, resulting in higher mortgage rates. This is problematic for adults who have only been out of school for a couple of years and are unable to obtain a mortgage from traditional banks.

Now, most of us are probably not going to be buying a house right out of school, and — fingers crossed — some of us might never have to use an alternative mortgage lender like Home Capital. But the need for us to understand a financial system that can be incomprehensible to outsiders is more important than ever. Insufficient-funds fees, short-term teaser interest rates, and payday loans, while seemingly innocuous, are common money pitfalls that students regularly fall into because of a lack of financial understanding.

It is idealistic to say that every student should have an in-depth knowledge of such fascinating topics as the Canadian housing market, the intricacies of mortgage lending, and the muddy depths of bank transaction fees. But, as millions of people learned in 2008, these structures have a huge effect on our lives. At the very least, we have an obligation to try.


Claire Velikonja is an incoming second-year student at the Faculty of Engineering studying Chemical Engineering.


The real cost of academia

How divided time and resources impact working U of T students

The real cost of academia

From September to April, a U of T student’s schedule revolves around the demands of their academic calendar. Therefore, discounting summer enrolments, the last exam of the winter term typically marks an undergraduate’s return to their hobbies or extracurricular ambitions.

However, while some students head to familiar childhood homes or unfamiliar vacation spots, many must stay in the city to meet other ends.

Students who live on their own and foot their own bills — academic and otherwise — do not get to follow the same pattern of vocation and then vacation as some of their peers. These students often resort to minimum wage jobs in food services or retail to survive the four months without the financial support offered by OSAP. Though the anticipated increase of the provincial minimum wage has garnered attention in the press and around dinner tables, the lives of the students who survive on it have not.

The idea that every student at an illustrious college enjoys the same liberties is as damaging as it is false. Young, financially insecure adults pursuing higher education are swallowed whole by unfeasible agendas and exhausting realities. The difficulties they face with their finances in the present actively reduce their prospects for the future.

In February of 2017, Vanmala Subramaniam wrote a piece for Vice on the cost of living in Toronto. Subramaniam highlights how outrageous it is to consider saving money in Toronto on an income of less than $45,000 a year, drawing attention to the approximate 13 per cent rise in the cost of rent and 36 per cent rise in the cost of public transportation since 2008. Moreover, Subramaniam mentions that saving money is even more ridiculous for young people living in a metropolitan city who rightfully intend to experience as much of it as they can.

Not every student has the means to experience the city in the same way. Students generally select homes to rent based on location and cost. Apartments close to schools like U of T and Ryerson — and thus closer to the iconic aspects of the metropolis of Toronto — tend to have higher rental rates. Yet cheaper places tend to cost roughly the same amount when accounting for TTC fees and the time lost on commutes.

Generating a liveable income, even for a single-person household, relies on equal parts pragmatism and luck. In 2012, Jacob Serebrin wrote an article for Maclean’s about full-time university students with jobs. Serebrin states that 18 per cent of Canadian undergraduates work over 30 hours per week.

When working minimum wage jobs, one also has to realistically account for the ways corporations cut financial corners. In 2014, Tavia Grant of The Globe and Mail reported that more and more part-time shifts have been cut down to the 15-hour work week to help employers cut costs. Other tactics include scheduling shifts that come with unpaid breaks, or sending employees home early.

Seeing as the cost of living has not decreased, it is reasonable to suggest that a number of students with part-time jobs struggle to get enough hours, and thus must take on second jobs. The first job covers living expenses, like rent and phone bills, while the second covers things like transportation, groceries, and entertainment. Working four-hour mornings at Job One, taking a four-hour afternoon break, and then working four-hour evenings at Job Two is just the reality of my summer in Toronto.

And this work, though it pays the bills, can prevent students from applying to unpaid internships or even other paid positions that could be beneficial to their careers. Independent students simply don’t have the ability to put the future before the present.

Students living in these conditions likely have less time to revise and submit resumes, CVs, and applications for the academic positions that their peers can more easily complete. Since the workforce expects students to have exchanged precarious academic labour for experience, in the form of internships, students without that experience are less likely to be hired.

This is not to mention that a truly ambitious student will want to participate in as many networking and academia-related events as they can. This can pose a problem if the events are not free, require a certain standard of dress, or cut into hours where the student could be making money.

Even when they are able to attend these events, busy students may not be as prepared as peers who have had time to brush up on the topics being discussed. And when someone shows up to an event after dragging themselves from the TTC and various places of work, a groggy brain and a wrinkled outfit don’t leave strong impressions on potential employers.

Post-secondary education is geared toward the success of those who can devote every waking second to being a student, not those who must also work at providing for themselves. The things that working undergraduates have to do to survive inhibit their ability to utilize all that an academic institution can offer, setting them back in terms of skill and experience. Though higher learning is sometimes depicted as a haven of equality and equity, the living conditions of working students challenge the truth of this ideology — it is still extremely difficult to be a working student.


Jenisse Minott is an incoming third-year student at UTM studying Communications, Culture, Information, and Technology.

The root of all evil?

Cashing in on the alleged threat of campaign financing

The root of all evil?

For quite some time Donald Trump has been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to the US presidency. After hitting a brief setback in Iowa, Trump won in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and then Nevada. Heading into ‘Super Tuesday,’ he is favoured by 12.9 per cent nationally compared to Ted Cruz, and by 16.5 per cent over Marco Rubio.

Conventional wisdom would have it that Trump, the billionaire real estate magnate, would surely outspend the Republican field, to the detriment of democratic politicians. After all, we’re told that money buys politics, especially in the US.

The reality is that in eight months of campaigning Trump and his allied political action committees (known as PACs) have raised $27.3 million. This is tied with the relatively unknown John Kasich for the least amount of financial contributions to candidates in either party. To put this in perspective, consider that Cruz, Rubio, and their respective PACs have raised a combined $188.8 million, yet are in all likelihood just a few weeks away from losing the nomination to the controversial political amateur, Trump.

Furthermore, the Trump campaign and pro-Trump PACs have spent $25.5 million, which is the second least among the remaining candidates.

In Canada, we have also been told that money taints elections; however, election results have not shown this to be the case. In the 2015 federal election, the Conservatives had a fundraising advantage, and yet the Liberals won a majority.

If campaign financing is not the corruptor of all things democratic, how, then, should we understand its role in politics?

Campaign financing is a neutral and legitimate form of political expression, just like any other.

When it comes to advertising, there is merely a difference in degree, not in kind when comparing the running of a 30 second television commercial and, say, speaking into a microphone at an event. The only thing money decides is how many people hear the speaker.

Additionally, there is more than enough cash to go around so that no single candidate, party, or political ideology has an insurmountable advantage. For every Koch brother, there’s a George Soros. Small but enthusiastic donors can still prove formidable, as Bernie Sanders’ unlikely success has shown. His campaign has raised $96.3 million thus far, without the aid of a PAC.

Campaign spending is not a determinant to voter turnout either; in 2012, Mitt Romney outspent President Obama and won the white vote by 20 per cent, but Obama scored decisive victories among the black, Hispanic, and Asian votes, who together made up almost 28 per cent of the electorate, their largest share ever.

Finally, thanks to traditional grassroots activism and social media, those with limited funds can achieve national recognition without ever having to buy a billboard or television spot. Donald Trump has more followers and fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram than any of his competitors, and other than Bernie Sanders, he is the only candidate whose rallies can fill professional sports arenas.

The power of social media and on-the-ground organizing has also been demonstrated by the activist movement Black Lives Matter.

An election, after all, is a competition of ideas, and consequently we should ensure that more of them are shared.

Through sustained social media campaigns as well as protests, Black Lives Matter has managed to drive the conversation around criminal justice reform for over two years, with no signs of slowing down.

This is not to naïvely say that politics is free of corruption, or that money has no influence on our leaders. But if we want to clean up politics, perhaps we should look deeper into what happens after elections. This includes staying vigilant and redirecting our attention to when foreign interests make donations to a cabinet secretary’s private charity, when a justice minister’s husband works as a lobbyist, or when the banking industry and its federal regulator share a revolving door.

That is the kind of money in politics we should be vigilant of: the money that trades hands during governance, not during campaign season. A campaign, no matter how loud, ugly, or chaotic it gets, is still the heart of democracy. An election, after all, is a competition of ideas, and consequently we should ensure that more of them are shared.

Emmett Choi is a fifth-year student at Victoria College studying philosophy and American Studies. His column appears every three weeks.